Bad call shifts momentum in Duke/UNC battle

Let me be clear — the call I’m about to discuss was NOT the reason that Duke lost the game last night. The Tar Heels played terrific in the second half and the Blue Devils simply did not. But the call in question indirectly set up North Carolina’s run.

Check out the video of Kyle Singler elbowing Tyler Hansbrough.

The first shot of it is at the 0:05 mark in real time. It’s tough to see, but you get the sense for how difficult it would be for Singler to stop his elbow after it slips off the ball. You can also hear that the whistle blew after the elbow, so he still had the right to fight for the ball.

The first slow mo shot is at the 0:25 mark. Singler is clearly trying to rip the ball out from in between Hansbrough’s legs and his hand slips off the ball on the third attempt. He’s not thinking about what might be behind him and Hansbrough isn’t really doing anything that would warrant an elbow to the face. Plus, this scrum occurred just 16 seconds into the second half. There really wasn’t enough game time for Singler’s temper to get to the point that he’d intentionally elbow something in the face. Remember, most of these shots are in slow motion, so while it might seem like a player could stop his arm when it slips off the ball like that, in reality it’s moving much faster. It was an accident.

Dick Vitale and the officials overreacted. Singler was called for a technical, so North Carolina got two free throws. At that point in the game, Duke led 52-44, but more importantly, it was Singler’s third foul. After North Carolina had almost tied it up, Singler picked up his fourth with 12:55 to play and had to come out of the game. That’s when the Tar Heels started to pull away. When he returned a few minutes later, he couldn’t challenge shots on the defensive end like he normally would have, and that led to a couple of North Carolina buckets.

In the end, the Tar Heels won, 101-87, so it’s clear that this call wasn’t the deciding factor in the game. The Blue Devils had plenty of time to overcome that technical, but they shouldn’t have been put in that position in the first place.

This is a great win for North Carolina. They now have the inside track for an ACC regular season championship, which usually results in a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. In order for Duke to get back to that level, they’ll have to shrug off this 2-3 stretch and string together some wins, including a victory on March 8 in Chapel Hill.

Hats off to Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green who managed a 4-0 record at Duke during their careers at North Carolina. That’s a truly impressive accomplishment.

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